This morning as I finished up my quiet time, I asked the Lord what I should write about today, and for some reason, He led me to write about these things that have been on my mind since Thanksgiving.
One thing that kept jumping out at me over the last few weeks is how frequently Christmas carols include the word "peace". For example, "sleep in heavenly peace", and "peace on earth". Everytime I heard the word "peace", I would stop and think about how Jesus said in Matthew 10:34:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
We love to romanticize things, don't we? The birth of a beautiful baby boy doesn't make us think of swords; it makes us think of sweet smiles, brights eyes, puppy dog tails, knights in shining armor, and happily ever after. It's hard to associate the precious little baby born in a cave and placed in a manger named Jesus with the grown man who was beaten beyond recognition and crucified on a cross as a criminal.
I think of that often when I hear of some horrible crime that has been committed - that the person who did it was at one time someone's precious little one.
It seemed to me like I moved through the month of December in a fog. Having in-laws who insist on keeping the Christmas tradition of gift giving and two children who I raised in the traditions that were taught to me as a young girl, it's very hard to completely divorce yourself completely and all at once from the melee known as "Christmas". Each year I take part less, and hopefully, soon I can just stop all the nonsense.
I say nonsense because as I walked through December, I felt like I was on the outside looking in all the time, and I kept thinking to myself that all this hustle, bustle, spending, eating and general over indulging had its roots in the birth of a child who grew up to be a man that a majority of the people hated and wanted dead and whose name people today hate to hear and are working tirelessly to have wiped out. Yet, they continue to "celebrate" the day. It all looks like a trumped up excuse to eat, drink, be merry and have some time off of work and not a day of celebrating the fact that God left heaven to live among us and show us how to live a life devoted to Him and free of sin.
Finally, another topic that kept cropping up was that of forgiveness; not God's forgiveness of us, but our forgiveness of each other. In Matthew 6:14,15, Jesus teaches us that we are to forgive others who have harmed us just as God forgives us and that if we can't find it within ourselves to forgive others, God will not forgive us either.
Giving grace to others and forgiving them for hurting us is hard. We feel justified in our anger for the harm done to us, but the Bible tells us that anger gives satan a foothold in our lives (Ephesians 4:26,27 and that we should not let anger control us. So, no matter how deeply we have been hurt, it is up to us to forgive the one who hurt us. Some hurts require God helping us to forgive because it is not within our ability to do it. Don't think God doesn't understand how it feels, because He does. Think about all the hurts and injustices perpetrated against Him while He walked this earth in a human body. Yet, He was able to forgive those who harmed him. I believe He shows us understanding in our desire to forgive and our inability to do so, and as long we seek His help in giving forgiveness (showing an honest desire to do so), I am sure that He grants us the ability to forgive over time. Surely that is where the old saying that time is the healer of all wounds came from.
I am living in the midst of a situation right now where one person needs to forgive another. I know that God wants us to forgive each other for our own mental health because as I watch the situation develop, I see the distress and destruction that both individuals are suffering. Anger destroys relationships, yes; but anger also destroys individual people, and families and innocent bystanders, like pets and friends. All who are around a simmering anger are singed by its fire, and that is where satan gets his foothold. If he can make us simmer with anger, then we will continue in our childish attempts of one-upping each other by committing another wrong and if we catch others around us on fire with the anger and hurt, that's all to his good (and definitely not to ours).
I know this must seem like a rambling piece today, and perhaps it is, but these are things that have weighed heavily on my mind here at the end of the year. The ads on tv and in the newspapers and magazines have begun for losing weight, but the real weight many need to lose is the noose around their neck of unforgiveness. Take time to take bow humbly in front of God and ask Him for help in forgiving those who have hurt you and then ask Him to forgive you for the ways that you have hurt Him, yourself and others. That, my friend, is the best way to start off a new year filled with sleeping in heavenly peace and could just possibly help to bring in peace on earth, good will to men.
May your new year be filled with the presence of the spirit of God, peace on earth, good will to men and peaceful, heavenly sleep.